AFC Rapid Bucuresti secured a surprisingly comfortable first-leg victory against Hamburger SV in a bad-tempered UEFA Cup last-16 encounter at the Giulesti stadium.
In-form Daniel Niculae opened the scoring for the hosts just before the interval and Mugurel Buga doubled the lead two minutes from time to leave Rapid with one foot in the quarter-finals. Both sides ended the match with ten men after Nigel de Jong, Hamburg's goalscoring hero against FC Bayern München at the weekend, and Vasile Maftei saw red in the second half.
After a slow start to the game, with the teams content to weigh up their opponents, the first chance did not come until midway through the opening period, when Niculae saw his left-footed drive well held by Stefan Wächter in the visitors' goal. Constantin Stancu and Lucian Burdujan went close for the home side in the minutes that followed, but both efforts were blocked.
Hamburg's first effort came after 35 minutes when Dutch playmaker Rafael van der Vaart hit a right-footed attempt from 20 metres, bringing a fine stop from Rapid keeper Danut Coman. However, Rapid moved in front on the stroke of half-time, Niculae firing in a 20-metre shot that left Wächter grasping at thin air.
De Jong dismissed
Hamburg looked to reply after the break but substitute René Klingbeil was off target from 15 metres just after the restart, and their hopes of getting back into the match evaporated on 67 minutes when De Jong was red-carded for a second bookable offence after a foul on Valentin Marian Negru.
Rapid were also reduced to ten when Maftei was dismissed three minutes into added time, but by then Rapid had a two-goal advantage as Buga had converted a fine right-wing cross from Niculae five minutes earlier.